Skip to main content

cognitive behavioral therapy for bipolar disorder

Living with a mental illness is nearly impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t have one or never had someone in their life who contends with one. But mental illness is real; bipolar disorder, in particular, is exceedingly complex…and exhilarating and exhausting and exciting and excruciating and endless and…well, you completely understand.

Your mood and mental state from one day to the next are unpredictable, and the extremes you navigate are either encumbered with negative thoughts or encouraged with excessively positive ideas.

Bipolar disorder can equate life to pure chaos. Fortunately, bipolar disorder can be controlled and a stable mood can be achieved.

While medication plays a major part in mood management, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can completely redirect your life by helping you adjust to excessive thoughts and behaviors while implementing positive changes. Additionally, it can help you quit using or abusing drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and cope with intense moods and emotions.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a hands-on, goal-oriented psychotherapy that takes a practical approach to cognitive restructuring. CBT helps bipolar individuals alter impractical, dysfunctional thinking and behavior – both positive and negative – while teaching them how to:

  • Identify mood trigger
  • Improve impulse control
  • Reduce stress
  • Effectively problem-solve
  • Complete mindfulness techniques
  • Enhance communication methods

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most proven, all-encompassing treatment methods available, as it is effective at helping bipolar individuals level out extremes and stabilize moods.

How Does CBT for Bipolar Disorder Work?

According to a study published in Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, researchers found that the mood swings experienced with bipolar disorder are influenced by thoughts and behaviors.

  • Extremely negative thoughts can fuel descent behaviors that are associated with depression.
  • Excessively positive thoughts can fuel ascent behaviors that are associated with mania.

A founding belief within cognitive behavioral therapy is that our behaviors, thoughts and emotions are connected and profoundly influence each other.

Through integrative therapy sessions, the patient and therapist both work collaboratively to identify inimical thought patterns, challenge harmful, unhelpful thoughts and correct problematic behavior patterns with advantageous skills and strategies.

CBT for Bipolar Disorder Techniques

  •  Intensively explore behavioral patterns. By thoroughly examining and discussing adverse behavioral patterns, triggers can be identified. The therapy process can unfold on this pivotal information.
  • Self-talk monitoring. The personal, mental conversations a bipolar individual has with themselves dictates their mood and outlook. By carefully tracking thoughts, beliefs and emotions through self-talk monitoring, one can significantly improve their actions, talk and perception of themselves.
  • Reality testing. Once a bipolar individual becomes well-versed at recognizing their thoughts and beliefs, they can begin to work through real-life situations. Reality testing pushes individuals to focus on a specific situation that’s rooted in reality. They can talk through how the situation makes them feel and how they impulsively want to react. Through these exercises, an individual can begin to see that some thoughts and actions lead to unfavorable and unhealthy outcomes.
  • Cognitive restructuring. When a bipolar individual begins to understand their positive and negative thoughts and behavioral patterns, they can begin to effectively reframe their beliefs, thoughts, impulses and actions. This technique heavily relies on consistent and thorough self-talk monitoring to label beliefs, thoughts and actions as either appropriate/inappropriate or accurate/inaccurate. When inappropriate or inaccurate, cognitive restructuring helps an individual learn how to replace negative entities with positive ones.
  • Continuous practice. CBT for bipolar disorder often includes assignments for individuals to work on in between therapy sessions. After each session, therapists will give their bipolar patients specific things to work on in order to keep progressing and stay on track. These assignments can range from journal writing, practicing learned skills in real-life and much more.

It’s important to reiterate that CBT is not only essential, important work for individuals who live with bipolar disorder, but also for individuals who simultaneously contend with a substance use issue, as well.

Because drugs and alcohol fundamentally change the brain’s chemistry, cognitive behavioral therapy helps an individual target areas of vulnerability (triggers), improve how the brain communicates and positively adjust their overall self-perception.

Faith-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Covenant Hills

If you have bipolar disorder and have turned to drugs or alcohol to cope with severe mood swings and unwanted thoughts, you can take back control of your life and find a healthy, sustainable balance.

At Covenant Hills, a large component of our co-occurring treatment programs is based in cognitive behavioral therapy and faith-based healing. We will guide you through the therapy process, help you awaken your soul and support you as your mind and body heal. Our goal is to help you return to the person you were made to be.

You are not defined by your bipolar diagnosis. You are you and you have bipolar disorder. You can transform the trajectory of your life.

Learn about our faith-based, co-occurring treatment programs, or contact us for a free and confidential assessment.


Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. Response styles, bipolar risk, and mood in students: The Behaviours Checklist. Accessed May 17, 2018.